Operators of three of the four trolleys involved in a major trolley smashup just past Government Center on May 8, 2009, described chaos and panic among passengers in the moments after the collision, in interview transcripts released today by the National Transportation Safety Board.
The fourth operator, Aiden Quinn, charged with plowing into the stopped train in front of him because he was too busy texting his girlfriend to notice the stopped train, did not cooperate with the federal investigation into the crash, which injured 46 people and caused several million dollars in trolley damage. Quinn lost his T job and is still awaiting a trial on a charge of gross negligence by a person in control of a common conveyance, which carries a maximum jail term of 2 1/2 years.
In his NTSB intervew, Jimmy Zhu, operator of the rear car in the train that got hit, described the scene:
Then all of a sudden, there was an impact. The lights -- the lighting on my train went out, and people were yelling and screaming. So I went back into the passenger compartment, I guess, to assess the injuries. There were several injuries, head lacerations or lacerations in general, and orthopedic injuries.
People were in a panic state. I tried to keep my composure to see however I could help the injured or the passengers, really.
Cindy Gillespie, the driver of the struck train, told NTSB investigators:
I was sitting at the red light, and I saw the train in front of me, and I saw the train in front of him. So I saw two trains in front of me. So I knew it was traffic. And so I was just sitting there, when all of a sudden my whole body, like, jerked. He hit me pretty hard. My whole body jerked. It threw my eyeglasses off. My eyeglasses off, my bag, my pocketbook was on the dashboard, like, beside me. It was a Type 8, so that was up there. So that came flying down, and I just -- I was, like, thunderstruck. I didn't know what happened. And then I tried to get on the -- call Central Control, saying, "Emergency. Emergency." I didn't know what happened.
And then the radio just started getting crazy. With that, I got up and I looked at everybody -- my lights were still on on my train -- and they were on the floor. So I got up and -- I stood up, and I was like, Oh, my God. I was all -- like, my back hurt me, the back of my neck hurt me. But I overlooked that, and I just walked -- there was a lady behind me with two small children that was saying "Oh, my back, my back." And her husband was there. So I went over to them to make sure they were all right. I said, "I don't know what happened, but somebody will be here" -- you know, I called over the air -- "Somebody will be here as soon as they can." So they said, "Okay." I just walked up and down the train to see who was hurt and how bad they were hurt.
The NTSB documents, which the board will use to compile findings and recommendations, include a summary of what Quinn told MBTA Transit Police immediately following the collision:
The operator said in his interview that he had started typing the text message while he was moving his train from the passenger platform at the station, and he had noted that the signal at the station was "green." He said that continued to type his message and subsequently did not observe any other signals before striking the other train. He said that he had noticed the reflection of train 3808's rear marker lights while he was looking down to type; however, when he looked up and saw the rear of the train 3808, he did not have time to stop his train before it struck train 3808.